And with the recent announcement that the 2010 McDonald's All-American Games are coming to the OSU campus, a number of his future Buckeye teammates could be right along with him.
As one of the consensus top players in that class of high school seniors – Scout has him as the No. 1 center and the No. 2 player overall – Sullinger of Columbus Northland headlines a list of the top prep talent that could get to show its wares in VCA on March 31, 2010.
He could be joined by a number of future Buckeyes as well. Scout has 6-6½ forward Deshaun Thomas of Fort Wayne, Ind., as the No. 6 overall player in the group, while shooting guard Jordan Sibert of Cincinnati and point guard Lenzelle Smith of Zion, Ill., are four-star prospects. All are Ohio State verbal commitments in what could be the top class in the country.
Though the choices for the 24 players on the boys' and girls' rosters won't be made public for a while, one would think the Buckeyes will have at least two players in the nationally televised and wildly popular game in Thomas and Sullinger. There also will be a dunk contest and skills competition held on March 29.
This can't help but be a win-win for everyone involved. With Ohio State expecting to be represented so well, Columbus fans should come out in droves for the game. I would expect it to become quite the point of discussion in the town and amongst the OSU fan base, especially if the number of future Buckeyes chosen climbs.
The community will benefit too because of the charity tie-ins for the game. Proceeds go the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio, and all of the players will make visits to the local RMCH chapter. There will also be a fundraising event.
On top of that, the players themselves should have a good time. Columbus has developed a reputation as a top city for hosting major sporting events – see the NCAA's continued selection of the city as a venue for postseason basketball tournament games and the recent choice of new Huntington Park as the home of the Big Ten baseball tournament if you want to know people in athletics view Ohio's capital city, especially when it comes to amateur athletics.
The local McDonald's brass seems to be pleased with the decision.
"We could not be more excited to have the Game here in Columbus," said Paul Thompson, executive director of Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio. "This will provide us with even more opportunities to help families in and around Ohio and show off our beautiful new House."
"It's a great honor to be hosting this game in our own backyard," said Shirley Rogers-Reece, vice president and general manager, McDonald's Ohio Region. "This opportunity is a huge coup for not only McDonald's in central Ohio, but for the entire community. We can't wait to show off our great city by hosting the athletes, families and fans here."
This year's game will be held in Miami on April 1, and the game's trip to Ohio will be the first since 2003 when a player named LeBron James of Akron headlined the group by taking home MVP honors.
Should Sullinger be chosen – and one would have to expect he'll be on the list – he'll cap a prep career of outstanding basketball in his hometown. He's already no stranger to playing in Value City Arena, having made an appearance in last year's January Play-by-Play Classic. Two more runs to the gym seem possible given that the junior has two more chances to reach the state tournament, which is annually held in VCA.
In fact, there is the chance that Sullinger will end his high school career with a state title in Value City Arena before returning to his future home for the McDonald's game.
And for those who haven't had the chance to see Sullinger, I'd have to advise everyone who is in the area to take advantages of these possible upcoming opportunities. The 6-7 big man is the real deal with the ability to score from anywhere on the court and muscle for rebounds seemingly at will.
My final thought on this came to mind while working on another story about Ohio State's past at the Big Ten tournament that will go up later today. That piece includes heavy amounts of lore from the Jim O'Brien years, and I can't help but think there would have been little chance for the school and the community to land this game if Obie were still around.
It might be a little unfair to say that, but if there's anyone who over the years I think has lost the benefit of the doubt when it comes to OSU, it's O'Brien. Anyway, there's no doubt that Buckeye recruiting has taken a huge jump upwards under Thad Matta. The coach already has seen his fair share of top-tier classes enter Ohio State in his tenure and another in 2010 is on the way.
Early departures and other circumstances have annoyed Buckeye fans, but the program continues to create excitement and hit new milestones under Matta. This is just another example.